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How Many Reps is Too Many Reps?

Credit: Coach Magazine
And how few is not enough?

Quantifying certain activities can be a bit of a double-edged sword, and this goes especially toward workout reps. On the one hand, it’s nice to have a particular goal or number to work toward, but on the other hand, if that number is insufficient, you’re ending the show prematurely and not getting a proper workout. Worse, if that number is too high, you run the very real risk of hurting yourself. Part of building an exercise profile for yourself is determining where your limits lie, and very carefully exceeding them without burning out. It’s all about that magic middle.

While everybody’s physique is unique, there are definitely similarities you can use as a baseline for determining your ideal rep number. Muscle-building research has revealed that different kinds of training warrants a different number of reps. For example, if you’re looking to build up your muscular structure for the purpose of bodybuilding or whatever, then your magic range is around 8 to 15 reps. You want a set that’ll definitely exhaust you by the last rep without forcing you to end it midway. Right when you feel your technique get wobbly, that’s when it’s time to stop.

Credit: Julia Hembree Smith

If you’re trying to increase your actual strength, then your range is between 1 and 6 reps. That may sound counter-intuitive, but the trick is to do fewer reps with heavier weights while gradually scaling them up. If you do too many reps with giant weights, you’re just gonna get tired out. Fewer reps means you can quickly transition into another set with larger weights, gradually building up your muscles’ resistance.

If you want to increase your physical endurance, you’re gonna wanna take it to the top with at least 15 reps. The whole point of endurance, after all, is to keep moving forward while under a physical strain, not to gradually increase the strain. Use less weight, and take short breaks in between sets. Unlike with strength, you’re not aiming for fatigue here, just keep going as long as you’re comfortable.

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